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The Impact of the Rapidly Changing Mobile Devices Market on e-Learning in Higher Education

Dr. Daniel J. GUHR The Illuminate Consulting Group San Carlos, CA 94070, USA and Grace A. GAIR The Illuminate Consulting Group 10249 Berlin, Germany

ABSTRACT The market for mobile devices is evolving quickly, bringing with it both new technologies as well as increased expectations for the performance of mobile devices and content. For higher education institutions that want to enable learning on mobile devices, these changes in technology and expectations will have a significant impact on e-Learning strategies. Looking at current market data and forecasts, this paper provides an outlook on trends in the mobile device and applications market as well as perspectives on how changes in this market will impact eLearning. Keywords: Mobile Devices, Higher Education, E-Learning.

Tablet market While tablets are relatively new to the mobile market, they have quickly moved from a niche product into a mainstream consumer good. According to the technology forecaster Gartner, the global purchasing of tablets jumped from 17.6 million units in 2010 to a projected 64 million in 2011. This number is expected to reach 326 million units in 2015. In terms of devices, Apples iPad has been and is projected to remain the leader in tablet sales through 2014, during which time it is anticipated to hold more than 50 percent of the market share. The decline in iOS market share over the next three years will be caused by the growth of Android as well as the entry of other competitors like Microsoft. Forecasts in spring 2011 which put Android as a growing competitor for Apple in 2011 were revised in the fall with a less optimistic outlook a 28 percent decrease from original projections. The adoption rate of Android tablets, for the time being, has been slower than expected, according to an analysis by Canaccord Genuity [4]. This trend will likely be subject to change as the Android OS runs on a large variety of tablets from different manufactures. While their market share is anticipated to remain low, with no individual competitor at more than 5 percent, other platforms have and are projected to enter the market. In fall 2011, Amazon released Kindle Fire and Sony released Tablet S, both which run on Android. Several companies including Samsung, HP, Dell, and Nokia are planning to release Windows 8 tablets during the latter half of 2012, which is slated to increase Microsofts OS market share significantly [9,1]. Given that the tablet market is still in its infancy, the certainty of market forecasts is somewhat unclear. HPs Touch Pad, for example, was expected as a substantial market competitor but was discontinued about a month after its release. As seen in the chart below, while there is a relatively significant amount of volatility, forecasts by Gartner show that it is highly likely iOS



The market for mobile devices tablet computers, smart phones, e-Readers, etc. is changing and growing rapidly, bringing with it new devices, new standards and new expectations about mobile capabilities. For higher education institutions that want to enable learning on mobile devices, these changes will continue to have a significant impact on these efforts. Given the consumerization of mobile technology over the last decade, the generation of students now entering higher education possess high expectations toward mobile devices and mobile content. Combined with the rapidly changing mobile technology market, students high expectations present a significant challenge for institutions in creating and deploying content which has a broad reach but meets users conceptions of quality and functionality. This paper examines the current forecasts and trends in mobile devices, operating systems and applications to highlight some of the challenges institutions will face with mobility and eLearning. The final section provides perspectives on the impact of these mobile device and application trends on e-Learning at higher education institutions.

and Android will combine to dominate the tablet OS market over the next few years. Nevertheless, given the various diversity which will continue to exist in the market, education institutions will need to be prepared for a fragmented tablet OS landscape with at least four different platforms (iOS, Android, QNX, and Microsoft). Figure 1. Forecast of worldwide tablet sales to end users by OS, 2010-2015
Forecast of Worldwide Tablet Sales to End Users by OS (Thousands of Units)
350,000 iOS (Apple) 300,000 Android 250,000 200,000 150,000 100,000 50,000 Total Market 0 2010 2011 2012 2013 2014 2015 Microsoft

Figure 2. Forecast of worldwide smartphone sales to end users by OS, 2010-2015

Forecast of Worldwide Smartphone Sales to End Users by OS (Thousands of Units)
1,200,000 Android 1,000,000 Microsoft iOS RIM Other OS Symbian (Nokia) 200,000 Total Market 0 2010 2011 2012 2015





Source: Gartner.
Other OS WebOS (HP)

Source: Gartner.

The above Gartner forecasts potentially underestimates Samsungs OS Bada, which it includes in the category other OS. In Q3 2011, despite the success of the Samsung Galaxy, which runs on Android, Samsungs push of Bada Smartphones sold more than 2.5 million devices in contrast to Windows phone which sold 1.7 million devices during Q1-Q3 in 2011. If Samsung prioritized the production of Bada smartphones over Android devices, Bada might become a direct rival for the Windows Phone OS, despite the introduction of Nokias new Windows devices [3]. Blackberry saw a serious drop in sales throughout 2011, finishing at 8.8 percent of the world market in Q4 2011 compared with 14 percent in Q4 of 2010 [11]. In January 2012, the company received a new CEO whose stated goal is to develop the company for broader consumer appeal, in contrast to its past focus on the enterprise. Depending on the success of the new CEO, Blackberrys projected share could be far smaller in 2015. e-Book reader market According to the market researcher Juniper, e-Reader shipments are projected to reach 67 million by 2016 nearly tripling the number for 2011 (25 million in total). According to the research firm IDC, Amazon led the e-Reader market in Q3 of 2011 with a 51.5 percent market share, with Barnes and Noble following at 21.2 percent. The e-Reader market is stratified into two segments: On the one hand, there are dedicated e-Readers, of which some are marketed by eBook vendors, such as Barnes & Noble, Amazon, or Google. On the other hand, eBooks are also read on highperforming Tablet PCs and smartphones, notably with apps from Kindle, Barnes & Noble, Google, and Apple (iOS only). According to a 2011 Pew research study, 12 percent of the US population possesses an e-Reader and 8 percent a Tablet. Only 3 percent own both devices [9].

Smartphone market By 2015, the average selling price of all open OS devices (i.e. every OS with a published software development kit and application program kit) is predicted to be at USD 300 or less, establishing smartphones as the mainstream mobile phone [12]. The relative affordability of smartphones will contribute to the growth of the global installed base of smartphones, projected to top one billion units by the end of 2012. Android devices will, according to Gartner, continue to dominate the smartphone market and grow to a share of 49 percent by 2015, up from 23 percent in 2010. Googles platform will be followed by Microsofts Windows Phone OS, which is forecasted to increase its market share from 5 percent in 2010 to 20 percent by 2015. Apples iOS will account for 20 percent, and BlackBerry producer RIMs market share will stand at 17 percent. Nokias Symbian platform is projected to drop from its 2010 market leader position with 38 percent to 0.1 percent in 2015, because Nokia decided in February 2011 to switch its OS to the Windows Phone 7. Therefore, similar to the tablet market, the smartphone OS landscape is predicted to remain fragmented with four dominant platforms (Android, Microsoft, iOS and RIM). However, three platforms which have the potential to significantly change in the market over the next 12-18 months are Samsungs OS Bada, Microsofts Windows Phone, and Blackberry.

Over time, tablets and e-Readers are likely to converge into one device. Apart from weight and considerable price differences, the main advantage of dedicated (black and white) e-Readers over tablets is the translucent e-ink display that does not fatigue the users eyes and can be read even in direct sunlight. Display technology that combines both color and e-ink is already in the industrys development pipeline. Apple, for example, secured a patent for a hybrid screen for its devices, which lets the user switch between the color (LCD or OLED) display and e-ink [5]. Mobile platform standard trends: apps vs. web According to a US study by Flurry Analytics in June 2010, users were spending 21 more minutes a day browsing the mobile web than using applications. This behavioral pattern changed with the increasing success of apps. In June 2011, users spent on average 74 minutes per day mobile browsing, and 81 minutes per day using applications [10]. Apps have become a major part of mobile user behavior which is reflected in the change in the number of apps downloaded per day from major stores like Apple 18.4 million in Q3 2010 to 33.3 million in Q3 2011. While app downloads have continued to increase, mobile web is also a growing trend due to its device and platform agnosticism. Up until fall 2011, one major problem for the development of mobile content on browser-based platforms has been the contentious issue of Adobe Flash for mobile, which has not been supported on iOS (e.g. content created with Adobe Flash could not be played on an iPhone). In November 2011, however, Adobe announced that it would cease the development of its Flash mobile browser plug-in. The gap left by Adobe Flash will slowly begin to be filled by the new browser programming language HTML5, which will also help in overcoming some of the the OS fragmentation in the mobile device market in near the future. HTML5 supports non-proprietary audio and video standards, and allows for the creation of engaging, multimedia-rich content that can be fully integrated with mobile devices. One of the largest problems with moving to web-based platforms has been users high expectations derived from experiences with native apps. Key developments with JavaScript and Node.js, however, are helping to enable a more natural look and feel with HTML5 which is more like that of native apps.

The nature of mobile devices Mobile devices offer, by definition, a significantly different user experience from traditional desktop and laptop computers. Thus learning on mobile devices is also a significantly different experience, particularly with regards to the amount of information that can be absorbed from the mobile device at any one time. The porting over of content from existing classroom- and desktop/laptop-based e-Learning materials can cause significant alignment issues not only in terms of readability and resolution, but also in terms of the effectiveness of content transmission. Institutions, in close partnership with faculty members, will need to decide which materials could create added value in a mobilized form and how that form can best take shape. Given the broad range of needs and requirements of creating well-functioning mobileenabled content, its development often requires constant feedback and tweaking by faculty, students, IT and institutional administration. Particularly if an institution is just creating a mobile strategy, the piloting of certain courses or material in mobile form may be the best way for institutions to support and grow mobile content and institutional knowledge about learning on mobile devices. The knowledge gained from one pilot program can serve as a basis for the development of other initiatives. Supporting a fragmented landscape While mobile device and OS market forecasts can change dramatically year to year, they do provide an idea of where the market is heading. As discussed in the second section of this paper, while some convergence is expected in both the tablet and smartphone markets, fragmentation device, manufacturer, operating system, etc will continue to be a key characteristic of the entire mobile market. Unfortunately, when it comes to institutional support for learning on mobile devices, there is not, and likely will not be a device or platform panacea. For institutions that want to accommodate learners on their own devices, there are a number of issues that they will face. For one, creating and deploying native mobile apps can be a major challenge that even many large private sector companies are reluctant to undertake. Programming, customizing and updating apps for multiple devices and OS according to the different screen-sizes, resolutions, orientation (landscape or portrait), color graphics and video/audio formats is time consuming, not cost-effective, and subject to different security and reliability issues. As a consequence, education institutions are increasingly shifting their attention from apps to browser-based platforms that can be accessed on any type of handheld device. New development platforms such as the UCLA Mobile Web Framework and the Kuali Foundation Mobility Enterprise are facilitating the development of mobile websites and allow for a decentralized and bottom-up development of mobile learning capacities [6].



While trends in the mobile device market continue to change and evolve, the overall shift towards mobile is clear, resulting in an ever greater impact on e-Learning. The following section explores issues which are already affecting higher education institutions today, and will remain important for institutional eLearning strategies in the future.

However, as discussed earlier in this paper, mobile web does yet not provide the user experience and functionality (i.e. the ability to take full advantage of the devices native capabilities camera, microphone, etc.) that a native application does. The end of Adobe Flash for mobile and the maturation of HTML5 over the next few years will push to establish the web as a viable cross-device alternative to apps. This will certainly enable higher education institutions to better provide mobile learning programs which do not require students to have a certain OS and/or mobile device and will allow students to directly access any learning content with their device of choice (mobile or non-mobile), without the need to preinstall apps. Despite the advancements toward better mobile web, progress toward a true native alternative has not yet arrived. Thus the fragmentation of both devices and operating systems will ultimately force higher education institutions to make certain choices about mobility: Institutions that choose to focus too narrowly on any one device or platform may miss opportunities to reach a broad audience may find themselves flat-footed when the market presents a new opportunity. Conversely, institutions which focus too broadly (i.e. only at device agnostic solutions) may miss out in providing learners with an engaging enough mobile experience. As a the speed of mobile development movers ahead rapidly, institutions may find their middle-of-the-road efforts met by underwhelmed audiences whose daily consumer experience with their mobile device is far more rich. Demands from on-campus mobility Understanding market trends and challenges can help a higher education institution better adapt its mobility and e-Learning strategies by creating awareness of possible new market players, shifts in usage patterns, and new or emerging capabilities (e.g. tablet computers with e-ink capability). It should be considered, however, that the market for mobile devices/OS is segmented and thus will see different expressions in different user groups (i.e. differences seen in age, occupation, region, etc.) of which a higher education institution could consist of many. Depending on the higher education institution (i.e. a small liberal arts college versus a large public research university versus a midsized community college) the device and OS preferences may be substantially different among users. Some of the multitude of factors affecting device and OS preferences and usage in a higher education institution include: Institution type (i.e. liberal arts, research, business, etc.). Program (i.e. undergraduates, graduates, PEL, etc.). Population mix (i.e. domestic versus international). In considering these factors, higher education institutions should use annual surveys in order to truly know what mobile device trends are occurring on campus and how strategies and responses should be modulated. Such surveys should collect data on both students and faculty members as well as in class and out of class usage patterns.

Institutions should also use surveys to identify user groups which may be affected with changing trends or institutional policies (i.e. shifts toward or away from apps, etc.). These surveys should also be used as an opportunity to identify user groups who would be better reached with a more targeted strategy or who may not be able to engage with e-Learning on mobile devices due to a lack of resources. Outlook Despite the limitations and challenges which institutions will face in implementing mobile opportunities for e-Learning, mobile devices present unparalleled learning opportunities which higher education cannot afford to ignore. On the most basic level, mobile devices allow institutions to tap into learning streams anywhere and anytime through Wi-Fi and data connectivity. Given the increasing mobility of society which is reflected in the growth of mobile workers, mobile commerce, etc., classroom and learning boundaries have been increasingly blurred into all facets of daily life. On a more advanced level, the tools which mobile devices provide cameras, microphones, recording devices and up-and-coming technologies like Near Field Communication (NFC), Augmented Reality (AR), etc. enable institutions to offer their students truly twenty-first century learning opportunities. As these capabilities continue to grow in both reach and scope, the possibilities for e-Learning will continue to broaden. Institutions which seek to provide the best opportunities for their students and faculty will need to continue to look at trends in the mobile market in order to best support mobile learning and ensure the institution will be able to meet learning and teaching expectations in the future.



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